… Kambonde, an elephant well known in the Ohungu Conservancy of the Kunene Region, walks towards a group of community members and farmers from around that area recently. Kambonde smelt oranges that the group had in its vehicles. The Peace Project, which is part of the Elephant Human Relations Aid in Namibia, organised the tour.
In an effort to minimise human elephant conflict in the Ohungu Conservancy in the Erongo Region as well as in Damaraland in the Kunene Region, the Peace Project, which is part of the Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) in Namibia, recently hosted a two-day workshop for farmers and community members at the EHRA camp.
The workshop, which was attended by close to 30 people, aimed to educate residents on how to deal with marauding elephants in their vicinity as well as to minimise attacks by the free-roaming wild animals.
Elephants in search for water and grazing frequently invade the residents in these areas, sometimes causing massive damage to the farmers’ infrastructure. As a result some human lives have been lost during such confrontations.
With independence and the cessation of over-hunting during Namibia’s war of independence, elephants have expanded their range to the south and east into territories they have not occupied for many years.
Subsistence farmers rearing mainly cattle, goats and sheep traditionally occupy these areas since the establishment of homelands.
As a result, competition for water and grazing has escalated tremendously, causing conflict between farmers and elephants.
In their search for water, elephants can cause extensive damage to windmills, dams, reservoirs, hand-pumps and wells. As the family homesteads are normally located close to the water sources, secondary damage is also caused and the lives of humans and livestock are also threatened.
According to one of the facilitators of the workshop, Dr Betsy Fox, residents and people in general tend to see elephants as a threat due to its size and what it is capable of.
“That is why we deemed it necessary to educate our locals on how to deal with elephants. According to her, the course does not only teach the locals how to deal with elephants but also how to apply preventative measure and, in most instances, avoid contact with elephants if possible.
She then explained that in most cases elephants do not visit homesteads to cause havoc but are only in search of water and food.
“They are big animals but are not necessarily trouble makers that is why we are advising farmers not to have any gardens and drinking holes close to their homes, as this is one of the main things that attract elephants. Previously, farmers would have only seen their paths at drinking holes, but with the current drought most boreholes and rivers are dry and forcing elephants to go further in search for water, as a result they end up at homesteads,” she explained.
In the 1980s, the population of desert-adapted elephants in the southern Kunene Region of Damaraland were wiped out through years of poaching and hunting. For years, elephants were absent from the area. This was until 1998 when Voortrekker, a bull, led Mama Africa’s herd back to the Ugab River. From that point other herds followed until today where there are seven elephant herds in the Ugab and Huab River vicinities,” she explained.
According to concerted efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, Save the Rhino Trust and other NGOs, over the past 20 years resulted in the population of desert-dwelling elephants in the region growing from as low as 52 to the current estimated population of 600 elephants.
New Era Reporter
2015-06-01 10:04:45 | 4 years ago